Campbell defends testimony at Taylor war crimes trial

11th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Stressing she had "nothing to gain," supermodel Naomi Campbell denied providing false testimony at the war crimes trial of Liberian ex-leader Charles Taylor, who is accused of receiving blood diamonds.

"I've no motive here. Nothing to gain," she said in a statement released in London late Tuesday.

The model defended her testimony after her former agent, Carole White, and US actress Mia Farrow both told judges this week that Campbell had accepted a gift of diamonds from Taylor and boasted about it the next day.

Farrow said Campbell had named former Liberian president Taylor as the man who sent her a "huge diamond".

This contradicted Campbell's testimony Thursday at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague, in which the model said she was not certain about the identity of the person who sent her the parcel of gems.

In her statement Tuesday, the 40-year-old model did however concede that she had slipped up when she told judges during her testimony that coming to court was a "big inconvenience".

And she stressed: "I am a black woman who has and will always support good causes especially relating to Africa."

According to White, the supermodel's agent at the time, Campbell and Taylor had flirted throughout a charity dinner hosted by South Africa's then president Nelson Mandela in Pretoria in September 1997.

At one point, "she told me: 'he is going to give me some diamonds'," White said in her testimony on Monday. "She was very excited."

Defending Taylor, lawyer Courtenay Griffiths on Tuesday branded White's account a "complete pack of lies".

"You've made it up to assist in your lawsuit (for breach of contract) against Ms Campbell. Bluntly, for you this is all about money."

But White, 60, insisted she was not lying: "It is totally the truth. It has nothing whatsoever to do with my business argument with Naomi Campbell."

On Monday, Griffiths also sought to discredit Farrow.

"Mia Farrow sees herself as the modern-day Mother Theresa to Africa," he told a press conference. "She does not have an open mind so far as Charles Taylor is concerned. She is looking for sainthood."

Giving testimony last week, Campbell conceded that two men brought a pouch containing two or three "dirty-looking stones" to her bedroom at the presidential guesthouse in Pretoria.

She said she did not know who the gift came from, but "assumed" it was from Taylor. The model said she donated the diamonds to the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund the following day.

Prosecutors are trying to link the gift to Taylor, whom they accuse of having taken a consignment of uncut diamonds to South Africa "to sell... or exchange them for weapons" for Sierra Leone rebels.

Taylor, 62, is on trial for his alleged role in the 1991-2001 Sierra Leone civil war that claimed some 120,000 lives.

He is accused of receiving illegally mined "blood diamonds" for arming rebels who murdered, raped and maimed Sierra Leone civilians, amputating their limbs and carving initials on their bodies.

In Tuesday's statement, Campbell conceded that telling judges it was a "big inconvenience" that she had been forced to give evidence had been a "poor choice" of words.

"Campbell accepts the use of the word inconvenient' was a poor choice of word but it was made off the cuff and was taken massively out of context," said the statement from her media representatives, the Outside Organisation.

"It was in relation to a nonsensical question as to whether or not she was nervous appearing in court.

"Campbell had explained that she had fears for her family having read about Taylor's alleged crimes on the Internet, hence her initial reticence in appearing."

The statement added: "The suggestion that Campbell in some way doesn't care about the plight of those suffering in Africa is ridiculous and hurtful."

© 2010 AFP

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